Helmet use is a controversial topic among bikers.  Many bikers wouldn’t think about getting on their motorcycle without a helmet.  Others resent the government dictating what they can and cannot do.  No one disputes that helmets can reduce the risk of injury and death if you are involved in a motorcycle accident, but many states permit adult bikers to make their own choice.

I live in the Southern Tier of NY, and I practice law and ride all over NY and Pennsylvania.  New York is a mandatory helmet state and PA is not.  When I am out riding, I almost never see a biker without a helmet, and I never get on my bike without mine.  It seems that what I have noticed locally is occurring all over the country: wearing helmets is becoming more and more common whether your state requires them or not.

In a recently released report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals that helmet use for all bikers across the country increased for a 4th straight year.  Overall helmet usage increased from 63% of all bikers in 2008 to 67% in 2009.  Another 9% wore helmets, but they weren’t DOT compliant. You can find the full report here.

The numbers are even higher in states that mandate helmet use, rising from 78% in 2008 to 86% in 2009.  The percentage of helmet wearing bikers rose in non-mandatory states as well, increasing from 50% in 2008 to 55% in 2009.

The Northeast region of the country,which included mandatory and non-mandatory states, had much lower helmet usage than any other region in 2008.  Helmet use increased from 45% in 2008 to 61% in 2009, though, bringing it more in line with the rest of the country.  Interestingly, the Western region of the country had the highest percentage of helmet use, increasing from 71% to 83%!

The only major category where helmet usage decreased was in urban areas, where usage dropped 15 points to 57%.  No explanation is provided for this puzzling statistic.  It seems strange that in the crowded, congested traffic conditions of urban areas that less people would be wearing helmets.

If you are ever involved in a motorcycle accident, whether you are wearing a helmet can become an issue in your case.  It is similar to wearing a seat belt in a car.  It is an available safety device, and if you choose not to use it, the person responsible for the accident will not be found responsible for any injuries you sustain that would have been avoided by the use of that safety device.

In a car accident case, whether a seat belt would have prevented an injury is usually easy to determine. Injuries like being ejected from the car or banging your head off the windshield will usually be prevented by the use of a seat belt.  Whether a helmet would have prevented an injury is more difficult to determine though, and involves a lot of guess work.  That won’t stop the insurance companies from trying to get out of paying if they can.

As a biker myself, I understand people wanting to make their own decision about whether they wear a helmet.  As a NY and Pennsylvania lawyer who represents bikers injured in motorcycle crashes, I am glad to hear that motorcycle helmet use is up.  I would rather see you in my office than your widowed spouse.

Thanks for reading, and ride safe!


ZiffLaw Attorney, Esq.
NY and PA Injury and Accident Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY 14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062
Email: info@zifflaw.com